Page images

they have bidden a long farewell, in devotion to their mission-work in these far isles. The-schoolroom is under the same roof, and full of bright intelligent girls. At sunset there were vespers in the church close by, and, as the delicate sister was ordered to stay at home, and do her part by ringing the Angelus, we sat together and listened to the singing, which was very good,—the Tongan rendering of Canticles and harmonised Litanies being excellent. The harmonium is played by Pere Lamaze, who is a good musician. Another father, a fine old Breton priest, is the architect of a handsome wooden church now in process of erection. (When the Seignelay touched at the Wallis Isles on their way to Fiji, the bishop consecrated a really very fine new church there; and as the Roman Catholic Mission in those isles is very strong, there seem to have been wonderful rejoicings on the occasion. Among the offerings of the people were 150 pigs, which are being gradually consumed by the crew.)

This morning, soon after breakfast, Captain Aube landed me, in charge of M. Berryer and M. Pinart, to explore the hideous town. The shore-reef is so wide that at low tide there is a broad expanse of slimy mud and sharp coral; so it was with some difficulty that we effected a landing, just below the king's house, whence floated the flag of Tonga, TOWN OF NUKUALOFA.


which is red, with a white cross on one corner. King George has a guard of two hundred men, some of whom are arrayed in scarlet, and a detachment of these were on duty, expecting a formal visit from the captain and the bishop,—which, however, did not come off till the afternoon, when there was much saluting—twenty-one guns fired from the ship, and twenty-one returned.

We naturally made for the highest point of this very flat town—namely, the Wesleyan church, which, though it only stands about fifty feet above the sea, commands a good bird's-eye view of its surroundings — thatched roofs just seen through luxuriant bread-fruit trees, cocoa-palms, and largeleaved bananas, with scarlet hybiscus and rosy oleanders to give an occasional touch of colour.

Close to the church is the grave of the commander of an English man-of-war, who, forty years ago, allowed his valour to overcome his discretion, and himself led an armed force to assist the present King George in asserting his claim to the throne. In charging a stockade he and several of his men were killed, and an English gun was captured, which still lies at the village of Bea, about four miles from here.

Another very sad memory clings to this place— namely, that of the barbarous massacre in the year 1799 of three of the very first missionaries who ever landed in the South Pacific. A party of ten men were sent to Tonga in 1796 by the London Mission, and for three years they contrived to hold their ground, till, on the breaking out of a civil war, three of their number were murdered, and the others were compelled to fly, and conceal themselves as best they could. On this occasion, as on almost every other when the lives of Christian teachers have been sacrificed, the action of the savages was distinctly due to the influence of wicked white men. The culprit at Tonga was an escaped English convict, who, having won the ear of the king, persuaded him that these men were wizards, and that an epidemic, which was then raging, was due to their malignant sorceries. So, at the bidding of this scoundrel, the poor savages murdered their true friends.

That any should have escaped was due to the most providential and unlooked-for arrival of a ship captured in the Spanish war and brought to Tahiti—whence a member of that mission undertook to navigate her to New South Wales, on condition she might call at Tongatabu, to see how it fared with his brethren in the Friendly Isles. Thus happily were the survivors rescued, and the mission abandoned, till the Wesleyans ventured to reoccupy the dangerous ground, with what success we well know, seeing that to the aid given by their

[blocks in formation]

Tongan converts was due much of their wonderful progress in Fiji. On the green hill of Nukualofa are the graves of those early martyrs, shadowed by dark, mournful casuarina trees.

Leaving the church, on the little grassy hill, we descended to the dead level, and passed long rows of thatched houses embowered in flowering shrubs, with banana and pine-apple gardens. These are the homes of the mission students and their families, —all very tidy, and with well-kept grass paths and green lawn all round.

All the native houses here are oval in form, having both ends rounded. They have the same deep thatch as the Fijian houses, generally of reeds or wild sugar-cane. The walls are of plaited cocoapalm leaves or reeds interlaced. The houses have no stone foundation to raise them above the damp earth, and in many of the poorer huts the floors are merely strewn with dried grass instead of having neat mats, such as the poorest Fijian would possess. Only in the wealthier houses did we see coarse mats, made of pandanus. In the majority, however, there is an inner room screened off to form a separate sleeping corner; and we noticed that the Tongan pillow closely resembles that of Fiji, being merely a bit of bamboo supported by two legs. The cooking is generally done in a hut by itself, built over an oven in the ground; but a good many ovens are al fresco, and the daily yams, or the pig of high festivals, are baked quite in public.

Mr Baker, who is the head of the mission here, was absent, but we called on his wife, who received us kindly, and made me a present of a pretty Tongan basket and combs. She regretted that she could not offer to take me for a drive, her carriage having come to grief. There are all manner of vehicles here—wonderful in our eyes after having so long looked with reverence on the engineer's wheelbarrow as the only wheeled conveyance in Fiji 1 There are also a number of horses, descendants of those left here by Captain Cook, A.d. 1777, which the Tongans ride at a hard gallop, with a tether rope round their necks in lieu of a bridle. Finding that Nukualofa was utterly lacking in picturesque incident (at least so it appeared to eyes satiated with Fijian beauty of scenery), we followed a broad grass path which runs along the shore and intersects the isle. Like everything else here, it is in apple-pie order. King George is too wise to waste the labour of his subjects, albeit convicts; so instead of useless stone-drill or treadmill, all Tongan criminals labour for the good of their brethren, eminently to the improvement of the isle. How often, in India and Ceylon, when unable to close my ears to the monotonous word of command of

« PreviousContinue »